Bullying made young Terry suicidal; love left him cold. But then he was found – by love of a different kind.
Terry Thompsett has a friendly smile and a laugh that somehow speaks of a life of wide experience. His is quite a story.
At the age of eight, with the divorce of his parents, Terry had to make a choice between his mum and dad. He chose along with his two sisters to go and live with his mum, and they moved to Cuxton in Kent, which meant attending a new school. In Terry’s words, school life was “disastrous”. There wouldn’t be a day without some sort of bullying, name calling, and an occasional beating.
One lunch-time, sitting alone on the bank of the playing field, Terry noticed that his bullies also had a tough time themselves.
“I saw myself as a bit of a punch bag for them,” he explains, “So I didn’t get angry too often, as I knew they were also having a tough time.”
When Terry was 14, his sisters started attending the youth group of a local church: Kings Church, Medway. Terry was invited to the group, so a couple of weeks later he decided to go along himself.
After a few weeks of attending church, the minister, Barry, stood up at the end of the meeting and invited everyone “If you want to come forward, you can give your life to Jesus.” Terry didn’t go forward there and then, but Barry finished the evening by explaining that people could do it at home too, if they wanted.
Sitting on the end of his bed that night Terry gave it a shot. As he recounted – he knew he was praying to God, but didn’t really know about sin or much else.
He simply prayed: “God, I don’t know what I have to give to you, but whatever it is, I want you to take it.” Waving his arms around in the manner he’d seen Barry do at church as he prayed, within a few minutes he felt a cleansing, like “having a shower”.
“I could feel this energy coming through me, and slowly it was rising up and going all over me. I just felt lifted up. I didn’t know what it was; I just knew something had happened.”
“It’s the one thing that has kept me going,” says Terry, “because I have never been able to explain it. I’ve looked into other things, and tried to disprove God, but with this event, and things I had seen as a Christian, I couldn’t disprove it. It’s true. That was the first God-experience I had.”
Terry’s teenage years had seen a lot of upheaval – from the torment of school to new life and positivity in the KCM youth group, and then a turn for the worse.
After a year his sisters stopped going to KCM so he drifted away with them, and the realities of life at school crowded in and took over his life again. This led to two attempts at suicide between the ages of 14 and 15.
Terry got involved in the church again before finishing school. At 16 he was kicked out of his home and lived on the streets for three months. The church had brought a new place as the congregation was getting too big for their current building, and they were building more facilities out the back of the hall. As he didn’t have a job, Terry spent time with the guys from the church building a new roof for these facilities.
At 17, Terry was baptised and got in contact with the Jesus Army through a magazine in the church foyer. Soon after he joined the Jesus Army and Terry describes this time of his life as “going deeper”. His faith was strengthened by experiences of God’s power and solid teaching gave him grounding in his Christian faith.
His life was set in a more positive direction but the path from here on certainly didn’t prove easy. Life’s journey is never straightforward but meets twists and turns along the way.
At the age of 26 he left the church and got into a gay relationship that lasted 12 years. But after six years his partner started clubbing and taking drugs regularly. Terry wasn’t into the club scene, but it didn’t bother him at all so long as the drugs didn’t come home. Yet over time his partner slipped into depression and became verbally abusive. Eventually, Terry just couldn’t handle it anymore. He “fell out of love”.
In 2009, Terry wrote a letter to Sam and Ruth, a brother and sister whom he’d known when he was part of the Jesus Army. They got Terry in contact with Ian who lived nearby in Acton and who he’d known previously in the church, and they started a friendship. In February this year Terry rejoined committed membership with the Jesus Army and moved into a Jesus Army community house in Acton, London.
What about the future? Terry wanted to do something to help on the local Friary Park Estate. He has some pretty bold ideas! He has plans to start an English conversation class, a social group, and a food bank. The food bank is to be run by young people to get them motivated and positively involved in their community; advertising the service, finding the food, liaising with supermarkets and distributing the food.
Other members of the public want to get involved including a recovering drug addict, a drug counsellor and a youth worker.
“Something within me knows that God really loves me,” says Terry, “He found me. And no matter what I do, He will always hang on to me.”